Creating a distinctive brand identity for a collaboration

Regular readers will know that I’ve been holding Colour Psychology workshops for Interior Designers with my friend Sophie Robinson for a couple of years now. I love collaborating with talented people and have been lucky enough to work with so many brilliant people (Elizabeth Cairns, Rona Wheeldon, Gudy Herder and Holly Becker to name just a few) over the last four years.

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Up until now, Sophie and I have always run the workshops under her brand. When we first launched, a couple of years ago, Sophie had just worked with Caz of Making Waves on a new identity, and I was mid-way through the process with Shauna. It was all a bit too fresh and overwhelming to create something new so we decided to just work with Sophie’s gorgeous identity. It made a lot of sense and I really enjoyed the opportunity to go nuts with colour.

We’ve been talking about launching an online colour psychology course for interior designers a while now and we’ve finally had some time to talk about how it will all work.

When we launched the live workshops, we’d taken the tried and tested structure of my Colour for Creatives workshop and tailored it to the interiors industry which has worked really well. I’ve created a lot of resources for creatives over the years and so many of those were in my brand identity. Sophie had then created a really rich set of interiors slides and handouts and they were in her brand and it was all starting to feel a bit disjointed. The question was… how to move forwards?

Making a collaboration work

My intellectual property is my business, so putting everything under Sophie’s brand was something I was reluctant to do. And yet it didn’t make sense to launch under my brand either. Sophie is an interiors expert and has played a huge role in pulling all of this together and creating something that’s really powerful for the interiors industry. It was time to shake things up.

It’s a collaboration and it needs to look like a collaboration.
— Sophie Robinson

Whilst I was reluctant to create a new brand identity for just one workshop, we actually have so many exciting ideas up our sleeves that it makes absolute sense to launch something that honours our collaboration and elevates what we are doing.

Creating a whole new brand identity is going to be immensely time consuming on my part but it opens up so many possibilities. It gives me the chance to flex my brand design muscles and it’s always inspiring to me to launch something new, so I hardly needed asking twice! Within an hour I’d already started collating mood boards and could see how it might fit together. A sign of an inspired partnership!


Creating a distinctive identity from two established brands

Pulling together two well- established brand identities can be a challenge. Both Sophie and I have two really strong visual identities that reflect really well what we’re known for. We both have a strong set of values and approach to business and creating a new identity that does justice to this could be overwhelming.

The challenge is create a balance. And most importantly, to invent something that’s unique and greater than the sum of its parts. It could be an absolute unholy mess, couldn’t it?

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TV Presenter, and stylist, Sophie Robinson has carved out a powerful niche for herself over the last couple of years as the colour queen. Sophie clashes colour and pattern with aplomb and her schemes are known for being bright, bold and maximalist. When it comes to Sophie’s brand, more is more. Vibrant colours, strong patterns, loud fonts and bold statements add to the richness and visual hug her brand gives you. Sophie is a warm, generous and intelligent woman and Caz has absolutely nailed her brand identity.


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By contrast, The Brand Stylist is a little more understated. My brand is quieter, more stripped back and elevated. Simplicity and style are a core part of my brand identity. I love clean lines, elegant typography and lots of white space. Pulling together something that does us both justice could be a real challenge.


How to find clarity in a collaboration

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Start with a blank slate

The trick is in creating a new brief. Trying to pull together too many elements just ends in disaster. It’s impossible to create a cohesive and distinctive brand that draws on what Sophie and I currently have. So many of the elements that make our brands work are contradictory together, so instead, I created a new brief.

I started by thinking about what experience we create for our guests; about what they get when they work with us and what makes our offering different to the wealth of interiors educators out there.

Our collaborative brand identity needs to feel inspirational, fun and creative. That’s something we both agree on - even if we currently execute this in very different ways.

We are expert, visionary and commercial. Pragmatic, flexible and innovative. I could see stylish, tactile, beautifully made stationery.

This clarity meant that I could instantly create a vision for our collaborative work. I think there’s a lesson in here for all of us. So often we try and achieve the impossible: trying to find a common thread between things that are very often just not going to come together. If you find yourself stuck there, think again. Start afresh.

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What are your non-negotiables?

Next I thought about our non-negotiables. I say next, all of this happens for me in a very instinctive, quick way. It’s not really a linear process but I’m trying to pull it out into something that’s a little more step-by-step so that I can explain it to you.

For Sophie, colour is utterly non-negotiable. Sophie is all about bright, bold colour and so my pared back palette for The Brand Stylist just wouldn’t work for her. Interestingly, I find this quite exciting. Personally I’m very drawn to colour and whilst the bright tones just aren’t right for my brand, I love the fact that I’ll use them here. What an opportunity!

For me, style and an understated elegance are my essentials. It won’t feel like a collaboration with The Brand Stylist if the overall feeling isn’t simple and stylish.

Knowing this pretty instantly gave me an insight into how our brand needs to look and feel. Bright, bold colours, a pared back design and plenty of white space. I could see it in my mind and the colour that kept coming to mind was a lovely cobalt blue. This was an instinctive rather than rational thing and I can see it working really well.

So there you have it. Here’s how I’m pulling together two really well established and totally contradictory brand identities into one cohesive and coherent whole. As I develop the new identity I’m really looking forward to sharing my progress behind the scenes. You’ll find a couple of sneak peeks into the mood board - tomorrow I’ll be sharing more of the details.